Thursday, January 22, 2015

The "Viking Method" Experiment

Viking has been wanting to write quite a bit lately but have struggled to find the time.  I have been working pretty hard on a write up for SwimSwam about nutrition and training to be posted soon, since I opened my big fat mouth and tried to act like I am smarter than the nutritionist who posted some nutrition tips there. I decided that a great way to tie into that would be to supplement it with a series of smaller posts here. The first thing that will help with that is to describe my swimming comeback so that readers have some kind of reference to understand some of the the points I am making in case they want more info.  I hope that starting a little bit of a training log will add some depth to it without getting annoying. Once in a while I might just post a link or a video that anyone following along might want to see.  Sometimes it might just be a random thought, since finding time to write with the hours I work is nearly impossible. I would not post any of it if I did not think it was interesting and relevant.  I think that anyone who is curious about making themselves a better swimmer and has a mind open to new ideas might like following along with my little experimental adventure.

First, I have to say that in the same way that "we don't choose swimming, swimming chooses us,"  I must explain that I did not change my diet to make a swimming comeback.  I got back in the water to see how I could do after I changed my diet, lost a bunch of weight, and cut my best 5k down by about four minutes with the same running routine I had been doing every spring for years.  This has become an experiment to see if there is a better way for swimmers to do this fast racing thing.  I am trying to make the case that what I have started here is optimal for swimmers, and I may be the first person to actually try it this way that I know of.

I am determined to swim faster in my forties than I did in my early twenties.  I am certain that I can, even while facing pretty severe limitations in comparison to those in my life twenty years ago in my prime.  I currently work anywhere from 10-17 hours per day, with many weeks of that being a complete seven day work week with teaching classes all day plus meets for club and high school teams.  Yes, it's insane and if I didn't find a way to squeeze in some exercise I wouldn't be able to manage my anger issues, my body would fall apart before retirement, and I would go crazy from being three feet away from a pool for so many hours without ever being able to get in it myself.

My rules in this experiment are simple.  I do almost the exact opposite of everything I was ever told to do in my first swimming career.  I will:

  • give up absolutely no family time to pursue my own swimming.  I swim if I am at a practice or meet where I am already obligated to be there as a coach.  Most of my practices are a short warm up and one set with the kids I coach.  It is a good week when I can fit in three of those, since any time I coach younger or less experienced athletes I need to be on deck rather than in the water.   My team has been tremendously supportive of this so far.
  • adapt to the minimal training philosophy.  I tried to make a comeback in my mid-twenties and it sucked.  I felt miserable all the time.  I never swam really fast even though I was less busy back then and put in more yardage. I was constantly discouraged when I could not fit in the workouts I felt I needed to excel. Now I am training smarter.  You will read more about that later.  Let's just say I am not wasting any time.  All of my swimming has a purpose, and that purpose is racing.  
  • stick with the low-carb, high-fat diet.  This was how I got sucked into this experiment in the first place.  When I stumbled upon this diet my health improved considerably.  My running and swimming did as well, even though it goes against every bit of advice I have ever received on nutrition for health and for athletics.  I want to take this as far as I can to see if adapting to this will be better than the standard nutritional recommendations for athletes.
  • stay low stress and keep it fun.  I am not allowed to throw a pity party when I am not able to train consistently.  That is just a part of being a 40 year old guy working two full time jobs and trying to swim in the cracks in-between.  Hey, if I swim fast enough to land a sponsorship that can free up my schedule by making up the income for some of my extra-duty stipends I am all over it, but the odds of that are pretty slim.  I am just gonna go with the flow and carry the same philosophy at 40 that I did at age 10... it's fun to go fast and I intend to have more fun than anyone else in my heat.
So far, I started last December hitting a 58.92 100 breast and 2:12.33 200 breast at the 2013 KMSC Pro-Am, after never having broken a minute, even in an illegal suit, since my last college meet in 1996.  Those swims were after being on the new diet since April of 2013 and running, with just a little swimming to prepare.  I was shaved and in a blueseventy Nero XII.  After that, I swam about less than 3000 yards a week in the long course pool last summer, and sprinkled in some running and short course swimming when I could fit it in.  I dropped from 1:12.2 to 1:09.0 in the 100 and 2:39.0 to 2:31 in the 200 LCM from May to Sectionals in July.  This fall, I did a 59.9 and a 2:10.7 in unshaved meets with a TYR AP12.  At the Pro-Am in December 2014 I shaved and swam 58.1 and 2:07.2.  I am pretty proud of those swims but I know I will keep getting faster.  Just last weekend I did my fastest unshaved 200 with a 2:09.7.

Wish me luck. I took those couple of weeks off of training after the KMSC Pro-Am in December thinking it would take a while to get back to where I was, but surprisingly, when I jumped back in the water I had not taken a step backward at all.  It's funny... I found that in my running too.  I don't seem to get "out of shape" the same way I used to.  I truly believe the diet has something to do with that.  In the last two weeks I have turned in best scores on sets for both the 100 and 200 breast, and both were significant improvements.  I really think I will be ready to rock at Sectionals in March.

Please stay tuned and let me know what you think.  I am hoping that all of this craziness generates some great discussion here and at Swim Swam.


  1. 58.92 for 100 Brst that is a fantastic time - was it in a 25m pool or 50m pool ?

  2. Hmm. That's tough to see the scale go up.
    However, I do feel much stronger.
    I'll have to think about this.